An intriguing, almost throwaway, line at the end of James Robinson’s Observer piece on the forthcoming London evening newspaper battle between Associated Newspapers and News International, suggests the Guardian could enter the fray.
With Murdoch’s freebie, thelondonpaper, launching on September 18 and Associated planning a revamp of Standard Lite, battle will be joined next month.
Thelondonpaper will be distributed on the streets but Murdoch is apparently still interested in the Tube and railway stations afternoon distribution contracts for which tenders have been invited.
Murdoch’s decision to initially by-pass this distribution route — used by Associated’s morning Metro — has led to speculation that its value has been reduced. Buying it at a cut price would then slice thelondonpaper’s distribution costs.
But could the Guardian really be interested? At first sight it is unlikely as the paper has invested heavily in the change to the Berliner format and contnues to spend on developing Guardian Online.
Yet it is hard to believe that the line in today’s Observer, the Guardian’s stablemate, was not carefully considered before publication. It could also be a piece is mischief.
And it could make sense. Thelondonpaper will be popular with celebrity stories but little foreign, city or serious news. The thinking is that the paid-for Standard will have to move up market, possibly increasing its price.
Guardian Newspapers has the experience of its evening in Manchester where the Evening News has moved to a hybrid of paid and free distribution.
The thing that could make sense of a move by the Guardian is that it already has a day-time news gathering infrastructure in Guardian Unlimited which is producing constantly updated G24 downloadable pdf newspapers.
There could just be a niche for a free evening at the top end of the market, echoing the success of City AM in the morning.
Newspapers prepare for London battle by Olivia Solon of Media Week
Raymond Snoddy, Marketing, on the promise of a bloody battle
Press Gazette: London’s free-for-all
Media Life: London’s coming great newspaper war